What This Country MEANS To Me (America IS Exceptional — When Republicans GET OUT OF OUR WAY…)

I have a mixed marriage.  I am American and my wife is British (now also American).  My children are mixed – British & American Nationals.

I have contemplated becoming like them – a Bi-National.

And yet — I have always had reservations about doing such a thing — because, on some level, I feel like I would ‘become’ a little ‘less American’ in order to be ‘A Little Bit British’.

It’s crazy, I know.  Stupid and irrational.  But it’s there, in my gut — and I can deny it all I like but it’s there:  I AM AN AMERICAN THROUGH & THROUGH.

This country has ‘IMPRINTED’ something on me that I can only call ‘I’m An American’.  I take incredible pride (most of the time) in what that means (or SHOULD mean) to the rest of the world.  It is a vital part of how I define myself — to the World and to myself.  I start each day having certain UNALIENABLE RIGHTS because of where I was born, who I was born to and what Nationality THEY were.

Despite all the bullshit and nonsense that gets thrown at all Americans as they grow up in American Culture on their way to Becoming Full Fledged ‘Americans’, there IS a CORE CONCEPT that has become ‘The American Ideal’ — the conceptual BEACON whose radiance has attracted hopeful people for 240+ years:

If you are willing to work your ass off — and be a good citizen while doing it — America is THE place where ANYONE can ‘MAKE SOMETHING’ of themselves.

That is what has brought so many bright, talented, hopeful people from all over the World to this place.  THIS IS AMERICAN EXCEPTIONALISM.

It ain’t White Christian Men circle jerking each other — that’s for sure.

Now — full disclosure — I grew up upper middle class in an upper middle class (Jewish) suburb outside of Baltimore in the 60’s & 70’s.  I had a LOT more privilege than LOTS of other people.  I had advantages and opportunities they didn’t.  It was not a level playing field.  I know that and it disturbs me.

America always provided me with opportunity (with the occasional, unspoken ‘we’ve already allowed enough Jews in the door, can ya try again later maybe?’).  Every dream I ever imagined — provided I was willing to provide the Sweat Equity — had a reasonable chance at getting off the ground at least.  The fairness we aspire to has been slow to actually stand up on its own two feet.  It’s getting more help recently.  Lots more women to make SURE Fairness not only gets to stand up but gets to STAY up.

Wouldn’t it be awesome if ‘Fairness’ became a thing again.  How about ‘Fair’ Elections — radical notion, right?

‘FAIRNESS’ has always been pretty illusory in America.  It’s always depended where you stood as to whether ‘Fairness’ would come your way.  But I grew up believing that ‘Fairness’ actually existed in America — that it COULD exist here.  The more diverse America becomes, curiously, the more FAIR it becomes — and the more EXCEPTIONAL it becomes.

So, to me — FAIRNESS isn’t a thing unto itself, it is the BOTTOM LINE on which ALL THINGS REST.

Everyone gets a FAIR shot here.  Or no one does.  That’s what ‘America’ means to me.  It’s that simple.

As I witness the republican party urinating & defecating all over the very notion of ‘Fairness’, I mourn for a piece of us.  It never WAS capable of ‘Fairness’ and we were fooling ourselves that it ever was capable.  There’s something dark, nasty and — okay, EVIL — at America’s core.  It sits right beside everything that’s good.

It’s always been there, too.

But I also believe that ‘Fairness’ can overcome that, too.  Because ‘Fairness’ — when practiced — produces real, palpable results:  At the End of The Day, Everybody Wins.

And that, too, is how I think America is supposed to work…

Hey, America — Next Time, Let’s Take Better Care of Our Democracy, Okay?

There’s a Joni Mitchell song — pretty well known — with a lyric that goes something like this —

They paved paradise
And put up a parking lot
With a pink hotel, a boutique
And a swinging hot spot
Don’t it always seem to go
That you don’t know what you’ve got
‘Till it’s gone
They paved paradise
And put up a parking lot

Democracy is Paradise.  Except we’re about to watch Democracy get knocked down for a lot less than a pink  hotel, a boutique and a swinging hot spot.  All we’ll get out of our deal is a bankrupt whorehouse where even the STD’s have STD’s.

By the time most Americans realize their Democracy is gone, it’ll be just about to disappear from their rear view mirror.  “What was that thing we drove past a while ago?  No memory except that it was big or something.  Special maybe — can’t remember any more.”

It’s perverse that the  Poster Kid for Democracy never really was that IN to Democracy.  Too much of a commitment.  Too much like hard work.  Too much responsibility.  It’s worse than having a pet, fer Chrissakes.  The only GOOD thing you can say about Democracy is that it won’t poop in the house.  It might DIE in the House but it won’t poop there.

Americans have always treated voting like it was root canal surgery.  That’s heart-breaking considering how hard some people have struggled to get here to vote AS AMERICANS, how willing others were to die — just to have a chance to live the lives Americans take for granted.  Like their Democracy.

It’s not just voting though.  It’s Civic Education.  Civic Pride.  Civic Sacrifice.

The first two are easy.  Even lazy ‘patriots’ can pull those off.  They can pick up a book.  Read some of our founding documents — not just the ‘easy ones’ (Declaration of Independence) but the more challenging ones too — Federalist Papers anyone?  Prospective Voters also can get educated by diving deeper into issues.  What are they really about?  What’s really at stake for who — and why (almost always the MOST important question — WHY?)

Civic Pride’s even easier.  Feeling good about The Greatest Country On The Planet should be easy.  But feeling good comes with a bit of responsibility.  It IS important what you’re feeling good ‘about’.  If you’re feeling good because America’s values are a Beacon To The World, that’s awesome.  If you’re feeling good because you’re waving a flag and you’ll happily shove the business end of your flagpole up the backside of any leftist who’d dare to burn a flag — well, you might be feeling good for the wrong reasons.

That brings us to the Problem Child in the bunch:  Civic Sacrifice.  The thing Americans hate the most.  Because it’s ‘sacrifice’.  Done ‘civilly’ — meaning ‘for the greater good’ and not ‘just for self’.  It’s not that Americans aren’t generous.

Americans are unfailingly generous.  But they have a weird animus toward their government — OUR government.  Some Americans see the government as a lethal assassin style Boogie Man capable of penetrating their brains, poisoning their garden furniture and turning their own bridgework into a spy satellite.  I hope like hell that no one so afflicted read any of that — I don’t want their going off the deep end on my conscience.

This isn’t all Americans — of course it isn’t.  It’s a wacky sub-set of Americans.

This wacky subset has fallen in love with a Mythic Figure (Americans — imagine!) — the Intrepid Frontiersman.  They think that’s them — the guy carving A Great Nation out of a Vast Wilderness.  Actually, that ‘Wilderness’ was someone else’s home but never mind.  Even their Mythic Figure is a shit.

THIS, strangely, has become, for many, the Proto-Patriot.  The Guy They Emulate for his ‘independence’ and ‘freedom lovin’.  And this guy?  He fears the government.  He loathes it because all it wants to do in his fever swamp of a mind is take away his Freedoms.  Well… actually, he’s only afraid they’ll take away his gun.

And,, perversely, that’s what motivates and motivated this guy.  It motivated him so much — his fear that a make-believe government would march — storm-trooper like of course — into his house to take his guns — that he made it his life’s work to re-imagine the Constitution as nothing BUT a justification for gun ownership (the fact that the Constitution says exactly the opposite be damned).  Well Regulated Militia, anyone?

The Gun Lobby — along with the Evangelicals who wanted to move heaven earth and our Whole Democracy to make abortion (and probably birth control itself) illegal.  They have hijacked our Democracy — by semi-legal means.  Ironically, what motivated them more than anything was demographics.  They saw what the numbers said:  There’s going to be less and less of THEM and more and more of THE OTHER.  Brown people, black people, people with foreign-sounding names and strange cultures and even stranger foods.

That scares some White People almost literally to death.

This Nativism does not go well with Democracy.  They are mutually exclusive propositions in fact.  Can’t share the same living space without killing each other.  This creates a Culture of Mistrust for Democracy.  Trusting other people?  Hell no.  Trusting your own kind?  Sure — worth a shot (you already know to get them before they get you).

These bastards somehow won the Culture War.  They must have — our Elite MSM keeps telling us that it’s THEIR disappointment at Life that’s driving everything.

The rest of us never even knew a Culture War was happening.  We were too busy living.  Too busy enjoying the benefits that knuckle-scraping Culture Warriors are at war against.  A big piece of that Culture War was aimed at Democracy.  Too many diverse people watering down the voting pool?  No way, Jose (to borrow an expression).

Americans need to cut the shit about what it IS to be an American.

Being an American — It was special my whole life.  I refuse to let Donald Trump and his band of GOPirates make being an American less special because they’re taking racism & bigotry & misogyny & corruption  to new and ‘exciting’ places.

First — we need to make Election Day A HOLIDAY.  It’s a Day Off Work to CELEBRATE the most Fundamental Right of BEING an AMERICAN — getting to VOTE.  We should rhapsodize about voting.  We should make it automatic that on your 18th birthday, like EVERY AMERICAN, YOU get registered to vote.

Then — We should do what Australia does.  They mandate that, on Election Day, you MUST go to your polling place.  Once there, you do not have to vote.  Once you sign in, you can leave immediately if that’s your wont.  Or you can vote whatever way you like.  You just have to show up.

Americans JUST HAVE TO SHOW UP.

It would be an awesome beginning.  Voting — as a muscle memory exercise — becomes easier to remember to do than NOT voting.

Weird, huh?

Then there’s the relationship between Americans and paying taxes.  Americans despise the idea of paying taxes because 1) it conflicts with their self-image as Frontier Guy and 2) Americans never see what they’re getting for those dollars taken from them and given to the government.  Americans perceive that they get nothing for the money — except less money in THEIR pocket.  If Americans could see the ‘benefits’ to paying taxes the way they see the benefit to paying more for a better cell phone or unlimited data — they’d pay it and maybe even shut up.

Not having to ever FIGHT to have the right to vote — or any of the other rights that belong to you because you are American — has made American Civic-Mindedness flabby and soft.  In these here times, it needs to be rock hard.  Six packs and pecs and bi-ceps all ripped to the max.  It takes had work and sacrifice to get your body in shape.

Democracy works exactly the same way.  With more sweat.

In The Pantheon of Bullshit, ‘Flag-Waving’ Sits Atop Its Flagpole

There are Americans – lots of em – who genuinely believe that Patriotism means you wave a flag at every opportunity and scream at people who don’t wave flags cause they’re being ‘unpatriotic’.  They think the bigger the flag on their front lawn, the more patriotic they are.

These are the same mooks who think if they buy a big enough cross to wear, it will magically make all their sins less sinful.

I bet if you walked up to these fine people, took out a copy of the Constitution and burned it in front of them, they’d stare at you like you were insane.  Why the hell would go and burn an old piece of paper?  What’d it ever do to you?

That’s the problem.  The American Flag is lovely and all.  But it’s just a flag — a piece of cloth that we have ‘imbued’ with symbolic value.  In and of itself — it’s JUST A PIECE OF CLOTH and the symbols on it open to interpretation.  Want to know how many countries have flags?  ALL OF EM.

Want know how many countries have United States Constitutions?  Precisely one:  US.  That Constitution was the remarkable achievement coming out of the American Revolution — not the flag that represented it or the country.   Anyone who thinks we send soldiers out to die for a piece of cloth is an idiot.  We send them out to die (if we must) to DEFEND THE IDEALS enumerated in the Constitution.

Ink & fabric, no.  “All Men Are Created Equal”, yes.

If we REALLY wanted to celebrate the country at an NFL game, we’d hold up a copy of the thing that MAKES us special — the thing that actually COMPELS people still to come here and seek the American Dream — NOT the flag, the United States Constitution.

But, as we know, the thing we’re discussing isn’t actually kneeling or respecting the flag.  It’s not even really about Patriotism.  It’s about RACISM — and White, Christian Male Privilege.

Hell — I can see their flag from here — flapping in the breeze.